I get asked some interesting questions. For example, an eight-year-old girl from France wrote yesterday: ‘I want to ask you about a strange thing. When I'm not comfortable in a situation I think that everyone else around me is a robot. Do you know why I do that please? I think it's very selfish of me because I'm not better than them.’
What would you say to that? Bear with me while I work towards the answer. Do you remember last month’s article about panic attacks and the illustration of being on the top deck of a double-decker bus? If there is a disturbance going on down below that could spill out into the whole bus and bring it to a stop. That is like a panic attack. A breakdown is a string of panic attacks joining together to form one continuous horrible experience. To change the metaphor, it is like a volcano that has been dormant for years but the pressure has slowly built in the magma chamber until it breaks through the earth’s crust and spills out molten rock.
That little girl in France is in a loving but noisy family. She herself has an outgoing temperament – but she also has a sensitive introvert temperament – and this is being missed – so that part of her withdraws and the result is that people don’t seem real – they seem like robots. Then she turns what is happening against herself and thinks she is feeling like that because she is selfish.
Now she is fortunate because her parents also wrote to me and asked for help with their daughter and so they are working hard to connect with her. When our introvert temperament is missed many of us grow up simply using our extrovert. This allows all kinds of pressures to build up within us because our emotions are not being properly processed. The extrovert works hard to keep the ‘crust’ firmly in place but eventually the pressure finds a way through and the turbulent emotions spill out all over the place. That is a breakdown. Next month we will explore this further and ask what to do if we have had a breakdown and if there is anything we can do to avoid them.